On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FM-02-1248-05.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted March 28, 2012 -
Before Judges Sapp-Peterson and Ostrer.
This appeal involves an issue of personal jurisdiction. Plaintiff Anoush Kacherian and defendant Arshak Mirzoyan were married in Armenia in 1989, divorced there in 2005, but spent periods of time together in the United States, including New Jersey, in the intervening years up to 2003. Over five years after their divorce, Kacherian permanently relocated to New Jersey, along with her three children. She filed a motion in Family Part, Bergen County in November 2010, seeking an order compelling her former husband to pay spousal and child support and for equitable distribution - none of which were ordered in the Armenian divorce decree. Judge Lisa Perez Friscia denied plaintiff relief, finding defendant lacked sufficient minimum contacts with New Jersey to justify exercising personal jurisdiction over him. Plaintiff appeals, and we affirm.
We discern the following facts from cognizable evidence in the record, including the motion for reconsideration, giving all reasonable inferences to plaintiff, in the absence of a plenary hearing to resolve factual disputes.
Kacherian and Mirzoyan were married in Armenia on August 19, 1989. Kacherian is a natural-born United States citizen and Mirzoyan is a natural-born Armenian citizen who also became a United States naturalized citizen in 1995. The parties have three children: daughter Heghine born in 1990 in New York City; daughter Satenig, born in 1991 in New Jersey; and son Shant, born in 1994 in Portland, Oregon.
During the 1990s, the parties lived for extensive periods of time in the United States, sometimes in New Jersey. Kacherian asserts that the family, including Mirzoyan, stayed with her mother in New Jersey from December 1990 to January 1991 when they returned to Armenia. The family traveled back to New Jersey for a family wedding in July 1991 and remained until Satenig's birth in September. Mirzoyan returned to Armenia the next month, and the rest of the family followed later that year.
Kacherian and her daughters visited her family in New Jersey for the summer of 1992. Mirzoyan, an orthopedist licensed in Armenia and Russia, had been offered a two-year teaching position in Portland, Oregon in 1993. The family stopped in New Jersey on the way from Armenia to Oregon. Kacherian asserted it was "likely" Shant was conceived during that stop. The family also spent the winter holidays with Kacherian's family in New Jersey in 1993-1994. The family visited New Jersey frequently, stopping there on their way to Armenia and spending holidays with Kacherian's family.
In early 1996, Mirzoyan relocated to Denmark for employment there, while Kacherian and the children remained in the United States, moving in with Kacherian's mother in New Jersey. Mirzoyan visited New Jersey for birthdays and holidays. The children attended New Jersey public schools between 1995 and 1998. In August 1997, Mirzoyan returned to New Jersey to live with the family, until the whole family relocated to Armenia in August 1998. However, the entire family returned to New Jersey for visits on multiple occasions until 2003.
Mirzoyan recruited a paying patient in New Jersey to travel to Armenia for limb-lengthening surgery. He also maintained communications with a New Jersey resident who personally supported, or solicited donations from others, for Mirzoyan's Armenian-based charity that provided orthopedic surgery to needy persons.*fn1 Although Kacherian asserted her former husband registered to vote in New Jersey in 2000, using her mother's address, no cognizable evidence of that was presented. During the period of time from 1991 to 2003, the couple received bank statements, credit reports, and other documents addressed to them at Kacherian's parent's address in New Jersey.
The parties separated in 2003 when Mirzoyan moved out of the marital residence in Armenia, an apartment owned by Mirzoyan's father. Kacherian and the children remained there until at least 2008. On July 29, 2005, the parties were divorced by a decision of the Court of Appeals of Civil Cases of the Republic of Armenia (Armenia Court of Appeals). Kacherian later filed for custody and child support. However, Kacherian withdrew her request for child support because she was concerned that admitting financial need would undermine her request for custody. On February 20, 2007, the Armenia Court of Appeals granted Kacherian custody of the children.
In 2007, Kacherian filed suit against Mirzoyan's father to compel him to recognize her as a joint owner of the apartment. The Armenian court dismissed her claim and granted the defendant's counterclaim for possession. We assume for purposes of the appeal that Kacherian was evicted in 2008 (although Mirzoyan claims she remained in the apartment until 2010).
Kacherian returned to New Jersey in 2009, but traveled to Armenia for months at a time until August 2010, after which she remained in New Jersey continuously. However, even before Kacherian's return in 2009, Heghine began attending the University of Michigan in August 2008. Satenig enrolled there the following year.
Aside from a visit to New Jersey in 2011 in connection with the instant litigation, Mirzoyan was last present in New Jersey in 2003. He was here temporarily while Shant ...